An Heir’s Role and Guide to the Probate Process

Often, when someone becomes an heir to an estate, they are unclear on exactly what to do next in the probate and inheritance process. Because of the complexity of the probate process, heirs rarely understand their rights and choices, their role in probate, or the probate process itself.

As an heir, there are some things you should understand right away about your role in the probate and inheritance process:

  • Contrary to popular belief, the estate attorney handling the probate estate represents only his/her client, the Personal Representative, “PR” for short (also referred to as the Executor or Administrator)
  • Because the estate attorney does not represent any heir associated with a probate estate other than the personal representative, he or she is under no obligation to take or return any phone calls, or to provide you advice as to your legal rights as an estate heir.
  • Any information that you receive regarding the estate will likely come in the form of a letter or probate pleadings sent to you by the estate attorney.

What is Probate?

Find yourself asking, “How does probate work?” You are not alone. Probate is a court supervised process where the validity of the decedent’s (person who passed away) last will is established and through which the decedent’s estate is administered.

Probate is a very time consuming and paperwork intensive process.  While some estates can be administered in 18 months or less, a large percentage of estates can take up to 3 years to close. This means that the estate heirs may not receive any inheritance money for up to 3 years after probate first begins.

How Does the Probate Process Work?

The very first step in the probate process is filing the Petition for Probate.  This petition, along with the original will and codicils (legal alterations to the will), if any, are filed with the probate court.  Also filed at this stage is the Notice of Petition to Administer Estate.  In this case, the “petitioner” is usually the proposed Personal Representative.

Once these forms have been filed, the court clerk will set a hearing for 45-60 days after the filing date.

It is at this point that notice has to be given to all of the people named in the will.  This is most likely the stage at which you first received notice of your heirship.

The Notice of Petition to Administer Estate is also published in a local newspaper to alert the decedent’s creditors that they must file their claims with the court within a specified period of time.

At the hearing, if no one has filed an objection to the probate, the court will admit the will to probate and appoint the PR.  After this appointment, the court will issue Letters [either “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration”] which are used by the PR to prove that they have the authority to act on behalf of the estate.

The second phase of probate consists of an ongoing process of filings, notifications and applicable settlements.  The following is just a short list of tasks which must be completed:

  • Identify all of the assets owned by the decedent at the time of death
  • File an Inventory & Appraisal which values the estate’s assets, both real (land) and personal
  • Notify the Department of Health Services
  • Liquidate all of the estate’s assets
  • Pay any debts, claims or taxes that are due and object to claims which should not be allowed
  • Settle all financial and property disputes
  • The final phase of probate consists of closing the estate and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.  If all goes smoothly, the final actions in the probate will be:
  • Obtaining a court order of distribution
  • Closing the estate accounts
  • Making final distributions to the heirs
  • Obtaining receipts from the heirs for the distributions made to them

As you can tell, the probate process is indeed a long and difficult process.  The good news is that the Personal Representative chose to retain a probate attorney to guide the estate through this complicated process!  The bad news is that, even with the help of an attorney, the probate process can still take 12-18 months or longer!

What If You Need A Portion Of Your Inheritance Now?

If you’re in need of your inheritance payout and looking for cash for probate, we can help you access your money right away!  IFC provides cash advances to heirs who are stuck in Probate.  IFC’s inheritance advances are not actually loans, which means there are no monthly payments.  Instead, IFC actually purchases a portion of your inheritance and is paid back directly from the estate when Probate is closed.  If you are interested in learning more about cash for probate and the process, click here or call us today for a free consultation at (800) 944-2072.

IFC | December 13th 2013 | Comments(0)

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